Having someone you trust and love watching your children is a significant advantage au pairs can offer over other childcare options. This often leads to a deep relationship that extends beyond the duration of their employment with your family. Au pairs are more than just childcare providers; they are role models, mentors, big sisters, and friends for your kids. They also bring a cultural exchange element to the arrangement.
They Are More Affordable
Au pairs are college-age students who live with a family and provide a set number of hours of childcare in exchange for room and board. This makes them less expensive than most daycare centers and nannies because they only work part-time. Families can choose au pairs based on language, culture, and other filters. An au pair agency can match you with someone who meets your needs and has the background, training, and experience to provide the best possible care for your children. They’re also required to pass a rigorous screening process. This helps families feel confident they’re choosing a safe, reliable caregiver.
Au pairs become part of the family and often form trusting bonds long after moving on. That level of commitment can make a big difference in the children’s emotional development and help them adjust to new situations.
In addition, au pairs are a good choice for families that need flexible scheduling. While daycares and nannies have to stick to a strict schedule, au pairs can be scheduled for up to 45 hours per week in non-consecutive blocks. This flexibility allows parents to work around the au pair’s schedule and ensure their children get the necessary care. This is particularly important when a parent works irregular hours or has to go out of town for business.
They Are Licensed
Unlike nannies or daycare centers, au pairs must be high school graduates with at least 200 hours of childcare experience. Agencies also verify that each au pair is between 18 and 26, has a valid driver’s license, passes a background check, and completes 32 hours of child development training. Au pairs who wish to work with infants must obtain special infant certification, which the agency verifies.
Many parents find that an au pair saves them money on childcare costs. They no longer have to pay for multiple childcare providers—nannies during the week and babysitters on weekends. Plus, having a live-in au pair gives the family peace of mind, knowing their children are safe and well-cared for. Au pair agencies also help au pairs find the right match by conducting video conferences and phone interviews with each applicant to ensure they meet program requirements. The agencies can help au pairs find affordable housing, provide a weekly stipend agreement, and conduct background checks on all household members. Au pair agencies vary in size and reputation, with some providing a range of childcare options and others offering more specific services like language instruction or counseling for au pairs and their host families. It’s a good idea to research each agency to determine how they can best meet your family’s needs.
They Are Experienced
While daycare centers, babysitters, and nannies are great childcare options, some parents want a more immersive experience to help their children develop and learn. Au pairs provide this. Au pair programs are highly regulated, with age, language proficiency, and childcare experience requirements all factoring into eligibility. Some require au pairs to be 18 to 26 years old, have a minimum of 200 hours of previous childcare experience, and speak English at an acceptable level. They also must pass a comprehensive background and security check. Unlike many daycare centers and babysitters, au pairs live in the home they provide child care for and are contracted to work a set number of hours each week. This helps to eliminate the stress of drop-offs and transitions and creates a sense of stability and safety for the kids. In addition, au pairs are typically required to attend a local community college or university to enrich their cultural exchange experience. The opportunities for academic advancement are countless and can enhance an au pair’s career experience and ability to interact with children of all ages. Families searching for an au pair can use the database to search by metrics like childcare experience and educational credentials while allowing their personality preferences to guide them. For instance, hosts can view photo collages and video clips of au pairs to see their personalities firsthand, read their Dear Host Family letters, and get a feel for how they communicate before making a match.
They Are Flexible
Unlike daycare centers and babysitters, au pairs live in your home. They’re contracted to work a set number of hours each week at a lower cost than hiring a full-time nanny (since they are provided room and board).
Au pairs can help you manage your childcare needs before school, after school, during snow days and sick days, weekends, and vacations. They become familiar with your child’s unique schedule and the family’s routine, so they can anticipate your children’s needs and behaviors like a parent would. Many au pairs also receive childcare training before joining your family, making them even more capable of providing quality care and supervision.
When choosing an agency, ask if it requires its au pair candidates to undergo a background check and provide references. You can then look for an agency with a history of good reviews and a high percentage of matches between families and au pairs. With a high ratio of caregiver to child, au pairs offer personalized attention and are more likely to form a bond with your children that lasts a lifetime. The flexibility of au pair childcare makes it an attractive option for parents with young children learning to read and write or babies and toddlers with behavioral issues. If you’re looking for a caregiver with experience in special needs, consider working with a reputable au pair agency.